Aachen (French, Aix-la-Chapelle; Dutch, Aken), an ancient city on the western (Belgian) border of Germany, was already in the sixteenth century the seat of a thriving Mennonite congregation that was of significance in promoting contacts between the German and Dutch Anabaptists. Through the Anabaptists the doctrines of the Reformation were introduced to Aachen; this occurred in 1530, at the time of the coronation of Ferdinand I, who was to become their bitter enemy. W. Wolf ("Beiträge zu einer Reformationsgeschichte der Stadt Aachen," in Theologische Arbeiten aus dem Rheinischen Wissenschaftlichen Prediger-Verein, n.s. 7, 1905, 69-103) stresses the fact that any Protestant movement in Aachen before 1545 can with considerable certainty be claimed as Anabaptist. See "Rechnungsbücher der Aachener Mennonitengemeinde," in Zeitschrift des Aachener Geschichtsvereins VI (1884) 295-338.
Among these early Anabaptists in Aachen was the glazier Wilhelm Stupmann, also called Mottencop or Mottenkoepgen, who preached in Maastricht and Liege, and who, as the Duke of Jülich reported to Bishop Eberhard of Liege on 16 August 1533, had formed in the city a congregation whose members called each other Christian brethren. The council also received a report at about this time of the sermons of the citizen Laurenz Teschenmacher, which though designated as Lutheran, were actually Anabaptist sermons. The initial hearing against him was futile, since Teschenmacher refused to admit anything. The movement grew to such an extent that the council found it expedient to pass four severe measures of repression (3 January, 20 January, 4 April and 20 July 1534) threatening non-Catholics with death. Executions and expulsions followed. Nevertheless the Anabaptists gained new adherents in the city, even among the nobility. Until about the middle of the century they were the only Reformation party in the city, during the 1540s apparently suffering less oppression. But in February 1550, upon the command of Ferdinand (later emperor), the city council passed a decree prohibiting anyone from holding office or serving on the council, who had not lived in the city for seven successive years.
After the Peace of Augsburg in 1555, which excluded the Anabaptists, a hostile attitude toward them became apparent, which led to bloody persecution. When Hans Raiffer, a Hutterite missionary from Moravia, stopped in Aachen and held services there, he was arrested by the council on 9 January 1558, with eleven others. One of the prisoners retracted and was released, but the others could not be persuaded to do so either by friendly entreaty or severe torture. Six women were beaten and banished; after long incarceration the men were burned at the stake: Hans Raiffer on 19 October 1558; Heinrich Adams and his brother-in-law Hans Beck on 22 October 1558; Matthew Schmid and Dilmann Schneider on 4 January 1559. The magistrates were for some time unable to agree on the death penalty. At length, 30 December 1558, eight of them pledged (the document is in the Aachen archives) that in case any of their fellow magistrates did not appear upon notification to judge imprisoned rebaptized persons, they would not regard them any longer as magistrates, and would close their houses against them and hold no conversation with them; if a lawsuit should arise from this action, they would share the expense.
In 1559 a large number of Protestants from the Netherlands came to Aachen, who designated themselves as Lutheran and Reformed, and hence could not be banished as long as they conducted themselves quietly (as the council replied on 15 May to a letter from Philip II). But against the Mennonites among these immigrants the decree was enforced. Frequently citizens and noblemen were summoned on the charge that they had not had their children baptized and held services in their homes. Midwives were required under oath to report all parents who did not have their children baptized. Banishment followed. In 1573 the preacher Balthasar Marie was banished. When the guilds passed a regulation (23 July 1574) admitting Protestants to the council, many Mennonites returned. Hans de Ries, the noted preacher of the Mennonite congregation in Alkmaar, was for a time in Aachen and instituted a disputation on the nature of original sin. About 1580, when the Protestant majority gained control of the city, there was in Aachen a well-organized Mennonite congregation which had its own minister and maintained a school. The stern orders of the Duke of Jülich for the extermination of Anabaptists and Reformed in his territory added to the membership of the Mennonite congregation in the city. Complaints were made by pastors that some Lutherans and Reformed were joining the Mennonites. As long as the Protestants controlled the council no measures were taken against them, but after the re-establishment of a Catholic regime (1598) the mayor prohibited Mennonite preaching and banished the preacher. However, because of the financial embarrassment of the city the council refrained from passing more stringent measures and in return for a payment of two thousand talers it postponed carrying out the decree of banishment. But in 1601 the Mennonites were compelled to choose between having their children baptized as Catholics and leaving the city, and most of them went to the neighboring town of Burtscheid. Those who returned during the winter were banished anew in April 1602. The council tried to banish them from Burtscheid as well, and at its instigation, on 16 July 1602, the bailiff of Burtscheid ordered the Mennonites to leave within four days; but these orders were never carried out. The abbess of Burtscheid granted them residence in return for certain fees, and they were also able to meet in Aachen again. In 1607 there were in three of the nine districts in Aachen twenty-seven Mennonite families among three hundred Catholic, sixty-four Reformed, and eighty-seven Lutheran households. In a few years a thriving congregation had been formed. However, it was short-lived, for in 1614 six hundred of its members were banished (mandate of 16 September 1614, in Catalogus der werken over de Doopsgezinden en hunne geschiedenis aanwezig in de bibliotheek der Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente to Amsterdam. Amsterdam: J.H. de Bussy, 1919., 101).
Some of those who remained submitted to having their children baptized; the rest joined the Mennonites of Burtscheid to form a congregation that those of nearby Vaals also joined. They held their religious services in Vaals, and under the protection of the Dutch States-General they preached, baptized and observed communion freely. But the broken congregation never regained its former importance. In the middle of the seventeenth century there were living in Burtscheid twenty-four Mennonite families; one hundred years later there were half that number; by 1800 there were only two families left. By the 1950s there were no Mennonites in Aachen.
In the eighteenth century, 1711-1747, Jan Helgers was the minister of this congregation, which was then called Vaals-and-Maastricht; 1747-1768, Peter Staal was its preacher. In 1768 the congregation was divided into two congregations, known respectively as Vaals-Burtscheid and Maastricht. Vaals-Burtscheid did not succeed in having a pastor of its own; the minister of the Maastricht congregation preached in Vaals until 1787. After his death the congregation had no pastor of its own, but was served twice a year by the Krefeld ministers Wopko Molenaar, Zino von Abema and van der Ploeg. The last families were Loevenich (Leuvenig), Schorn, Noppenei, de Graf and Goyen.
Braght, Thieleman J. van. Het Bloedigh Tooneel of Martelaers Spiegel der Doops-gesinde of Weereloose Christenen, Die om 't getuygenis van Jesus haren Salighmaker geleden hebben ende gedood zijn van Christi tijd of tot desen tijd toe. Den Tweeden Druk. Amsterdam: Hieronymus Sweerts, â€¦, 1685. Part II.
Fey, J. Zur Geschichte Aachens im 16. Jahrhundert. Aachen, 1905.
Forsthoff, H. Rheinische Kirchengeschichte I: Die Reformation am Niederrhein. Essen, 1929.
Hansen, J. "Die Wiedertäufer in Aachen und in der Aachener Gegend."Zeitschrift des Aachener Geschichtsvereins (1884).
Macco, Hermann Friedrich. Die reformatorischen Bewegungen während des 16. Jahrhunderts in der Reichsstadt Aachen. Leipzig, 1900.
Rembert, Karl. Die "Wiedertäufer" im Herzogtum Jülich. Berlin: R. Gaertners Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1899.
Beiträge zur Geschichte rheinischer Mennoniten : Festgabe zum 5. Deutschen Mennoniten-Tag vom 17. bis 19. Juni 1939 zu Krefeld. Weierhof: Mennonitischen Geschichtsverein, 1939.
Cite This Article
Hege, Christian. "Aachen (Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 25 Aug 2016. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Aachen_(Nordrhein-Westfalen,_Germany)&oldid=74425.
Hege, Christian. (1953). Aachen (Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 25 August 2016, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Aachen_(Nordrhein-Westfalen,_Germany)&oldid=74425.
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